Mahalo, Gov. Ige, for signing Senate Bill 3058 to help revitalize Hilo.

In the wake of the current lava flow’s devastation, the Big Island needs all the economic development it can get to help local companies stay in business and preserve jobs.

SB 3058 will certainly help by revitalizing Hilo’s Banyan Drive and Kanoelehua industrial areas. What a coincidence that the industrial area was originally established in 1960 following the tsunami which flattened Hilo in May of that year.

Back then, local government, community and business leaders were also looking for new opportunities to rebuild the economy, which included the first steps toward building telescopes in Hawaii.

Banyan Drive Hilo Hawaii road. 15 july 2016

Banyan Drive in Hilo is ripe for revitalization, some say.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Today, astronomy pumps over $167 million annually into Hawaii’s economy. Astronomy activities generate $52 million in earnings, $8 million in tax revenue and nearly 1,400 jobs statewide. Hawaii Island receives the lion’s share of $90 million every year.

The observatories on Mauna Kea generate $59 million in annual local spending, $28 million in income, and more than 800 local jobs — plus another million dollars per year in STEM scholarships contributed by the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope.

In 2015, the governor rightly committed to major changes in the stewardship of Mauna Kea. The plan includes greater respect for its cultural and spiritual significance, and decommissioning of 25 percent of existing telescopes by the time TMT is built.

It’s ironic that prior to the May volcano eruption this year, Sen. Kai Kahele pushed a different bill to create a Mauna Kea Management Authority that would have put the entire astronomy industry at risk.

That bill could have also cost the loss of TMT’s projected additional $20 million per year in spending, $10 million per year in income, and more than 275 new jobs. Not to mention helping the state make up for millions of dollars in lost tax revenue that’s already slowing disaster recovery and relief efforts.

Imua TMT.

Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to news@civilbeat.org and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes. And you can still comment on stories on our Facebook page.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org.

About the Author